Why You Ride: Monica Waggoner, Atwater Village

Why You Ride (or Don’t Ride)‘ is a series where you, our faithful readers, share your transportation routines in L.A. and your thoughts on how to make things better – read more about the concept here.

Want to share your story? Take the survey here if you ride transit regularly, or take this one if you don’t ride.

Who You Are:

Name: Monica Waggoner
Occupation: Grant Writer
Location: Atwater Village

Your Transit Routine:

How often do you take transit and for what purpose?

I take transit to work sometimes; we’re a one-car family, so if my husband needs the car, I ride the bus to work.  He has a shorter commute, so usually he buses and I drive.

We also use transit for recreation at times too; he might drop me and our older son off at the movies, and we’ll take the bus home while he and our younger son go do the shopping.  Or we’ll all use it to go do holiday shopping or other events where the car is an encumbrance.

When we have out-of-town guests, we usually take them on the Gold Line and use the Red Line to show them Hollywood.

Where are you typically traveling from and going to?

From home to work Downtown on Skid Row (my husband takes the bus to Downtown Glendale); also from home to the Americana or Hollywood.

What lines/routes do you take?

The 92 goes almost everywhere we need to.  We also use the 180/181 sometimes.

How long does it typically take?

It usually takes me 45-50 minutes door-to-door if I’m using the bus to get to and from work.  For my husband, his work commute takes more like 30-35 minutes.

Briefly, how would you describe your typical transit experience? Love it, deal with it, or hate it?

I love it!

On average, what do you spend each month on transportation?

$100 – $300

Why do you take transit?

Behind the wheel, I’m at the mercy of other drivers and their whims.  On the bus, the time is mine; I can read, play a game, or just hear myself think.

When I’m with the kids, they don’t have to be strapped into carseats, so they can see the world go by and I can give them a hug or a kiss whenever I want to.

The bus is safer than a car.  Buses have fewer accidents, go lower speeds, and the passenger compartment is higher than most of the mass moving out on the road.

We save money by only having one car.  Our car insurance dropped by $100/month when we sold one car; we aren’t paying another $150-200/year registration, and we’re paying bus fare instead of fueling up.

With only one vehicle, we think more about where we’re going and how we’re getting there.  We lower our impact on the environment that way, and see more of the world around us.

Other Transportation:

Do you use any other forms of alternative transportation?

We walk whenever we can.  Every Sunday, we load the kids into their red wagon and walk to the Farmer’s Market to do the bulk of our grocery shopping.

Are you car-free? If so, why? If not, why not?

With one car for a four-person family, sometimes it seems as though we’re car-free!  The main reason we’re not is that, *sometimes*, using transit has an enormous time impact.  For example, I looked into transit options for a beach trip when we had a house guest for the summer.  It would have taken an hour and forty-five minutes – and that’s not in rush hour.  Sometimes, we have more money than time, so we’d rather pay $24 to park two cars (too many people to take safely in one) at the Santa Monica Pier.

With kids, we haul a lot of stuff sometimes.  Especially for longer outings, being able to leave things in the car and go back for them, or being able to drop them off, is a huge boon.

I’ve considered challenging us to leave the car in the driveway for a month, and see how it works.  But it would mean waking up at about 5:00 a.m. to get to work early enough to be able to leave early enough to reliably relieve our childcare on time, and that may be more of a sacrifice than I can make right now.  When our kids are older, and in schools with more flexible hours, we may try it.

Your Perspective:

If you could make one change to improve your transit experience, what would it be?

There are now GPS’s on every bus.  Make that data publicly available; beyond being able to tap the bus stop and see when the next *scheduled* bus is, these days I really ought to be able to see where the bus actually is.  While there may be concerns about users being more aware of schedule deviations, I think the opposite would be true – with more accurate info, people would be *less* frustrated with waiting.  If the bus is still three miles away, you might duck into the coffee shop quickly; if it’s running a couple minutes ahead, you don’t have time to stop and chat with your neighbor on your way to the stop.

Given limited funds, how would you address L.A.’s transportation issues?

Start with converting existing freeway capacity to HOT lanes, along the model of the 91 Express Lanes.  When you really *need* to get from Point A to Point B in a hurry, the capacity will be there, for a price.  That will increase freeway capacity and generate revenue at the same time.

Right-price parking.  Again, you’ll generate revenue. A (large) portion of which can be re-invested in the streetscape (a la Old Pasadena), while also internalizing some of the costs of transportation.

From there, we’re in a much better place to make the necessary transit modifications.

Do you think L.A. transit is better or worse since you started riding? What’s changed?

It’s gotten better. There’s more information available.  The Trip Planner has improved; Google Maps now gives next bus info on my phone.  There are more kinds of maps and timetables depending on what you want to do.

The routes have been optimized; there’s more service on busier corridors.

It seems like buses are less likely to be late or to just not show up at all.  There was a problem for a while with the bus my husband used to take home from work; probably once a week it would be too crowded and would blow past his stop.  That was fixed in the next shake-up, though.

How would you encourage Angelenos to use transit?

By internalizing costs of driving in the ways described above, as well as other measures as feasible (gas taxes, restoring the California registration fee, and so forth), the balance between $1.50 fare (a bargain compared to other cities this size!) and driving would be much closer.  But what’s really important is making sure that transit is very reliable, and that when things happen, people have access to the information so they can adjust their plans accordingly.  If you know that the next bus is 20 minutes away, you can call work and tell them you’ll be late, or even call a cab.  If you’re saving money by taking the bus, you can splurge on a taxi now and then in a pinch.

I see people of all descriptions using their phones on the bus, and increasing numbers have smartphones.  Metro needs to make better use of these tools to empower passengers who choose to use transit.